Chinese lunar probe sheds light on 'dark side' of the moon

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The Chang'e 4 and its quirky rover won't be capable of that, but it will carry out a number of experiments and relay data it gathers during its time on the Moon's surface.

This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan. 4, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a robotic lunar rover on the far side of the moon.

After the successful landing, experts verified the conditions of "Queqiao", meaning Magpie Bridge, which was launched in May of 2018 to set up the communication link between the Earth and the moon's far side, the environment parameter of the landing area, the conditions of the probe's equipment as well as the angle of incoming sunshine to make preparations for the separation of the lander and rover, the CNSA said in a statement.

China's first lunar lander, the Chang'e-3, soft-landed on the near-side of the Moon in 2013, becoming the first spacecraft to do so since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

The landing highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the United States, Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement the nation's position as a regional and global power.

The United States is so far the only country to have landed humans on the moon.

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With the Moon tidally locked with Earth - taking the same amount of time to spin round on its axis as it does to orbit our planet - one half of it is always hidden from view.

China's lunar program began with orbiting observatories, Chang'e-1 and -2, in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

While the USA and Russian Federation have the capacity to launch a similar landing on the far side, China has beaten them to it this time, though its academics put that in perspective. China launched a relay satellite in May so that Chang'e 4 can send back information. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe's first stars, among other things.

He recalled mentioning the idea of such a technique for an unfunded NASA lunar mission about eight years ago, only to be told it wasn't doable at the time. China's lunar rover, Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, left the first ever "footprint" from a human spacecraft on the far side of the moon late at night on Thursday, after it separated from the lander smoothly. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s. "This mission will be a landmark event in this endeavor", Wu Weiren, chief scientist of the Chang'e-4 program, said in an interview with state broadcaster China Central Television.

They called the landing "a major milestone in space exploration".

By Ken Moritsugu for the Associated Press, with additional reporting from The Diplomat.

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